CDs leaving Best Buy, maybe Target could signal end of era

CDs could disappear from store shelves

Big box retail chain Best Buy plans to stop selling music compact discs, or CDs, in its stores by July 1, while Target may sell them only on a consignment basis. Industry rumors have Walmart following soon.

Could this spell the end to the more than three-decade old format that revolutionized music into a digital media?

Maybe. The announcement isn’t much of a surprise. Beat Buys’ once robust music business isn’t much more than a trickle these days.  The company said music accounted for less than $40 million in company sales in 2017. 

Officially, Best Buy has said little else about its plans for CDs, but many if not all of its stores are giving 15 percent off any CD priced over $6.99. 

Heck, the music industry is at a trickle. statista.com reports that CD sales were at 500 million units in 2007. By 2017 this figured dropped to 169 million units. 

Pirating and the internet have long been blamed for the fall of music sales (darn you, Napster), but the way consumers obtain music has been reshaped by music streaming services and legal digital downloading, as well. Apple Music, Tidal and internet radio services such as Spotify have taken a huge bite out of physical sales. For a monthly fee consumers can have thousands of titles at their fingertips without bulky stacks of cases to put away.

According to RIAA, US trade group of the music industry, streaming music services accounted for 62 percent of music revenue for the first half of 2017. Physical sales, which include LPs, made up only 16 percent.

Target has asked  record companies to give the company CDs on consignment. Target would only pay the companies if it sells the CDs. Labels would also pay to have unused products returned.

Target has not indicated if it has a deal yet. 

According to Billboard, Target has sold more than 500,000 copies of Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” CD since November.

The disinterest in the CD format by these two retail giants my not signal the death of the format, however. K-Mart dropped CDs in 2016 and the majority of the large music chains shuttered doors years ago. Still, CDs are still being sold by the tens of millions by Walmart and online retailers such as Amazon and Cd Universe. 

There are also many independent stores that sell thousands of CDs a week. Jim Henderson, co-owner of Amoeba Music, a three store chain in California, doesn’t even consider Best Buy a music retailer. 

“I don’t know if can look at this one signifier as symbolic of how everybody’s going to react to the viability of the format,” Henderson told the Los Angeles Times in March. “The world is so much more complex than it was. With people buying habits, individuality really rings true more than in previous generations,” Henderson said.

The compact disc was invented in 1982 by Sony and Philips of the Netherlands. It was marketed as a virtually indestructible digital format with superior sound quality to LPs and cassettes. 

The first CD player was the Sony CDP-101 released in Japan October 1. The world-wide release was March, 1983. According to Wikipedia, the first commercially released CD was Billy Joel’s “52nd Street.”